JWR Articles: CD - Schubert Piano Works (Featured composer: Franz Schubert) - February 6, 2013

Schubert Piano Works

4 4
67 min.

The promise of greatness to come

Every time a new artist comes my way either by CD or in person, there is an extraordinary feeling of anticipation: will she/he be a work in progress, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time, mature beyond his/her years or a burgeoning master-in-waiting? From this disc of delectable Schubert works, Inesa Sinkevych serves notice that she may well qualify for the last category: greedily, I most certainly hope that this early promise will be fulfilled.

The Twelve German Dances reveal much. A special affection for the composer is demonstrated by including these miniature gems in the program. In the early going there is a slight affectation in the delicate lines that, hopefully, will prove to be just a passing phase of expression. By the third dance, the ear is rewarded with a wonderfully woven texture and a vrai pianissimo: less is always so much more. Many more times, Sinkevych mines the details and subtext through understatement in ways that few others dare.

From the eighth (with its oh-so-inviting magical lines) through the triumphant finish, the sense of flow, inevitability and upper register ring whet the appetite for more.

Immediately there is a marvellous feeling of push- and-pull in Hungarian Melody which has a lot to do with the pianist’s realization that changes of mode require a special treatment and touch. Indeed, Sinkevych brings an all-too-rare variety of weight/wait to the key harmonic shifts, be they driven by true leading notes or wonderfully unexpected excursions to nearly related tonalities. Merci mille fois.

Trusting the art to speak more for itself rather than forcing it into garments that don’t quite fit would improve the Adagio in E Major. Yet the beautifully rendered changes of register more than make up for that slight blemish and the final measures readily slip away into contented memory.

The ever-familiar F Minor Impromptu found the magical tempo, was delightfully coy and infused with a compelling variety of touch, coming as a heady breath of fresh air before the major offering of the set.

In many components of the Sonata In A Major, Schubert appears to be paying homage to Mozart (deceptive simplicity in line and ornamentation), Haydn (masterful use of silence for extraordinary dramatic/harmonic effects) and Beethoven (the first theme of the “Andantino” threatens to blossom into the “Allegretto” from Symphony No. 7—also centring on “A”).

Sinkevych brings a valid interpretation to the extended work and is particularly effective in the full-throttle segments that find their way into every movement. Quibbles are few and far between. Nonetheless, when the balancing element of arid staccato finds its way into the mix (e.g., in the transition to the legato second subject of the “Allegro”), she will have a vital arrow in her quiver of style, bridging the gap between the Classical and Romantic palettes of texture and tone. As well, when the exposition repeat of the “Allegro” is taken, listeners will be treated to all of the composer’s ideas (the transition back is a wee marvel all to itself) and better set the stage for one of Schubert’s most inventive developments.

Grasping the overarching structure and purpose (that so much music could be built from “just” an octave…) is Sinkevych’s strength, allowing the music to move steadily forward—readily erasing barlines in favour of deeply personal expressions of rarefied art.

On to the next! The next recording from this talented performer eagerly awaited. JWR

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Featured composer - Franz Schubert
Piano - Inesa Sinkevych
12 German Dances, D. 790 - Franz Schubert
Hungarian Melody, D. 817
Adagio in E Major, D. 612
Impromptu No. 4 in F Minor, D. 935
Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959
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